Last year, I decided to study outside on Cross Campus nearly every week. One chilly Monday in November, two girls were throwing white frisbees. Others were seated in benches, their backpacks as their companions. I placed my sweater and notebooks on top of the stone leading up to Sterling Memorial Library. Although the cold numbed my fingers, the sun warmed the stone. I tied my hair up in a ponytail, ready to begin my homework. 3 p.m. Two minutes in, someone approached me. “Do you mind if I take your picture?” she asked. “Oh, yeah, yeah,” I said, trying to hide my enthusiasm. She stepped back and I took off my ponytail (to look cooler).

She thanked me. As she walked away, I called out, “Wait, what are those photos for?” She turned around and smiled. “They’re for my photography class. We’re studying shadows.” We briefly talk about the class, and she shows me the photos. They seem candid, but I know that my “studious” face is a pose: I’m pretending to concentrate on my Japanese grammar worksheet. “I’m trying to get over my fear of approaching people in public and asking to take pictures of them,” she said. 

Two other people pass by, one after the other. The first hugs me. He had a biochemistry exam in the morning and a physics exam in the evening the next day. Another girl joins us. “How do you know each other?” I ask. “Shared trauma. We were both here in the winter.”

I look up and see someone on a scooter with a purple backpack. I call out her name. “Can I join you?” she asks. I say, “Of course.” In the next two minutes, another friend passes by. I call out his name. He waves and takes out his earbuds. He also joins us on the stone. They chat. She talks about her “Halloween curse” and how past Halloweekend “was no exception.” 

These conversations happened in the span of three hours. I deliberately planned this time to see what kind of conversations I could hold with others. It’s an act that I call “intentional spontaneity.” It sounds like a contradiction. And it is. I’m referring to the intent to be spontaneous. To do whatever it is that can be done because you want to do it.

Forgetting to enjoy college is easy. Classes and extracurriculars quickly accumulate before one realizes that they need to catch up. I might remember how many times a week I’ve gone to the Sterling Starr Reading room to study — or to look like I’ve been studying — but I won’t remember the passages I read or the facts that I memorized for a test. I probably had an assignment due that November afternoon, but I don’t remember. What I do remember are those conversations and the people. They were random, simple, short, long. 

When I look at Cross Campus now, I wonder how many conversations I’m missing, how many people I haven’t seen or have yet to run into. I’m waiting for a warmer time when the ice has melted from the stone, and people gather to sit down and bask in the sun before it sets at 6 p.m. instead of at 4 p.m. I’m leaving my Google Calendar open for that day.

Spontaneity often doesn’t have intent. But let’s make it intentional. 

ISA DOMINGUEZ is a Sophomore in Timothy Dwight College. Her Column, “Isaential Readings,” runs every other Monday. Contact her at isa.dominguez@yale.edu. l

ISA DOMINGUEZ